GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The bushfires in Australia are causing concerns worldwide. For media who want to tell their audience what we in the Southeast can learn from the bushfires in Australia, David Godwin, the director of the Southern Fire Exchange, part of the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, can provide some insight.
As Godwin says: “The fires in Australia can serve as a reminder for those in the Southeast that we also live in a place where fire is a real part of the natural environment. Just like hurricanes, when it comes to wildfires, preparedness is key. As such, there are steps we can take to reduce the likelihood of dangerous wildfires. Prescribed fire is the most effective and efficient tool for managing the accumulation of vegetative fuels that feed wildfires. The commonly repeated phrase: ‘Prescribed fire is a safe way to apply a natural process to ensure ecosystem health and reduce wildfire risk’ certainly applies here. Prescribed fires have been shown to reduce wildfire occurrence, wildfire suppression costs and wildfire severity. This translates into increased forest health, reduced exposure to communities and safer conditions for firefighters.
“Forest managers and prescribed burners are urged to plan their burns carefully and notify the public in advance of burns to minimize the impacts of their smoke on neighbors and communities. While prescribed fire smoke can be an irritant and even a health hazard for some, the amount and duration of smoke exposure from the intentional and proactive use of prescribed fire often pales in comparison to the smoke emitted from wildfires. The Australian fires are occurring in their summer months during a period of extreme drought and heat. Southern wildfires are most common during our predictable dry seasons and droughts (Fall and Spring). In Florida, for instance, a localized or regional drought can develop over a relatively short period of time almost any month of the year. Being prepared for wildfire should be considered a year-round effort for Florida forest managers and citizens.
“In Australia evidence suggests that most of the fires are human caused. In Florida and the Southeast, the majority of our wildfires are also human caused. Escaped debris burns, accidents and arson are all common causes of wildfire in Florida.”
For more information, please contact Godwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Brad Buck, UF/IFAS